Cell lineage studies in the clade Eutrochozoa, and especially the Spiralia, remains a rich and relatively untapped source for understanding broad evolutionary developmental problems; including (1) the utility of cell timing formation for phylogenetic hypotheses; (2) the evolution of cell timing changes and its relation to heterochronic patterns; (3) stereotypy or lack thereof in rates of change of cell growth during evolution and its relation to both evolutionary history and current usage; and (4) how mosaic cleavage timing variation may be expected to differ from other groups. A compilation of available cell timing information was made from previous studies where each division was explicitly followed and the total number of cells followed was greater than 24. From that compilation, we performed a series of heuristic and quantitative analyses, including a phylogenetic analysis using cell timing data as characters and analyses of timing variation across all taxa. Our results show that: (1) cell lineage data reconstructs a phylogenetic hypothesis that has similarities, especially among the Mollusca, to the patterns found in morphological and molecular analyses; (2) the mesentoblast (4d) is a unique cell compared to other cell in that it speeds up and slows down relative to other cells in taxa with both unequal and equal cell sizes; (3) some cells that form in the same quartet at the same point in the cell lineage hierarchy have much lower variations than analogous other cells, arguing for architectural constraint or stabilizing selection acting on those cells; and (4) although variation in cell timing generally increases during development, timing of formation of progeny cells in the first quartet has lower variation than the parent cells, arguing that some regulation-like behavior might be present.
Corresponding Editor: M. Zelditch